Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 259
Summer and Smoke by Tennessee Williams takes place in Glorious Hills, Mississippi. Alma Winemiller is a minister’s daughter who teaches singing and helps her father with church duties, as her mother is mentally unfit to. She has been in love with her next-door neighbor, John Buchanan Jr., for years, and now he has returned home from Johns Hopkins to practice as a doctor. John, who was raised by his father after his mother died, doesn’t want to be a doctor, but he is following in his father’s footsteps.
While Alma is seeking a spiritual relationship and would love one with John, he is drinking, gambling, and womanizing. He is interested in a physical relationship with Alma, even suggesting they go to a hotel, but she is horrified and rebuffs him. John is also interested in Rosa, the daughter of the local casino owner. When he throws a party to announce their engagement, Alma tries to disrupt it by telling John’s father, Dr. Buchanan. Dr. Buchanan, who was away, returns and, in an altercation with Rosa’s father, is accidentally shot and killed. This causes John to mature and focus on the spiritual instead of the physical, while Alma is realizing she can have both with John. She goes to tell him about her realization, but it is too late; he has become engaged to Nellie, a younger, more conventional girl. Alma, devastated, goes with a passing salesman to the casino, offering herself for a purely physical relationship, in a complete turn from her former self.